Officials scramble to redesign SF Transbay Terminal train station
- Published Wednesday, March 11, 2009, by the SF Bay Guardian
Transbay Terminal still lacks rail solution
By Steven T. Jones
It's still an open question whether the trains will ever arrive at the new Transbay Terminal, an impasse that the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors will discuss tomorrow morning in City Hall.
After breaking ground on the new terminal in December, the project was thrown into doubt last week with surprise revelations that officials with both the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain say there are fatal design flaws that could preclude their use of the multi-modal transportation hub.
Since then, there's been lots of finger-pointing but no real progress, frustrating city officials and transportation advocates. As Dave Snyder, transportation policy coordinator for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), told the Guardian, "The most important thing really is that the different agencies stop fighting and figure it out so we can get this downtown extension."
TJPA spokesperson Adam Alberti tells the Guardian that updated CHSRA plans to run as many as 12 trains per hour into the center during peak hours, combined with more than a half-hour to service the trains, could increase the cost of the $4.2 billion project by about $1 billion.
"There's not much justification to engineer it to that level," he said. "There needs to be some creativity and thought put around these issues."
CHRSA chair Quentin Kopp, who has been pushing the high-speed rail project for more than a decade, has criticized the TJPA and its executive director, Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, as basically incompetent and raised doubts about the high cost of final 1.3-mile tunnel to Transbay. And he recently told us the current designs (for which the TJPA is awarding contracts this spring) is inadequate: "The engineers all agreed, so there's no dispute to that."
But San Francisco officials of all political stripes are rallying to overcome the problem.
"I find myself on the same side as Gavin Newsom," Sup. Chris Daly, who has long supported the Transbay project as a TJPA board member and regularly battles with Newsom. "We're going to pull together San Francisco officials around this issue."
Daly said he has had recent discussions with Newsom's economic policy head Michael Cohen and with Newsom-aligned Sup. Sean Elsbernd, and they're all on the same page. I asked Newsom spokesperson Nate Ballard about the effort and what the Mayor's Office is doing to help.
"The Mayor is fully engaged in finding a comprehensive regional solution that ensures that high speed rail will come to the Transbay Terminal," Ballard said, refusing to answer follow-up questions seeking details or a more substantial response.
Alberti said contracts for the project need to be signed by June to avoid costly delays, although that's also when criteria for $8 billion in high-speed rail funding under the federal stimulus bill are set to be released, adding to the imperative to have this mess figured out before then.
[BATN: See also:
SF to seek stimulus cash for HSR, Muni, Transbay train box
Webcor set to win $600m deal to build new SF Transbay Terminal
Transbay Terminal train station design too small, "fatally flawed"
MTC allocates stimulus funds -- nothing for Transbay train box
Newsom call for Transbay "train box" not meant to delay project
Newsom: SF Transbay Terminal must include HSR, Caltrain station
After TGV tour, Newsom says HSR vital to SF Transbay Project
Update: HSRA's Kopp vs. SF Transbay Terminal Transit Center
HSRA chair Kopp opposes running HSR to downtown SF terminal
HSRA chair Kopp wants to end HSR at SF Caltrain terminal
HSRA may not pay to reach downtown SF Transbay Transit Center